By Erin Shanahan
A small swastika was found scratched onto the inside of a trash room door at Lincoln Center’s McMahon Hall yesterday, March 9. The University was alerted of this fifth bias incident in an email sent out by the News and Media Relations Bureau of Fordham University.
The backward swastika was reported to Public Safety by a Fordham student. Officers from Public Safety as well as Fordham Residential Life staff members responded to the residence hall. The New York Police Department was also notified of the situation.
Fordham Public Safety is conducting an investigation in regards to the situation. However, according to the email from the News and Media Relations Bureau, the the vandalism has not been deemed a hate crime by the NYPD officially.
According to John Carroll, the associate vice president of Fordham’s Department of Public Safety, the incident has been deemed as a “suspected bias inncident” or a “suspected hate crime” by the NYPD. The 20th precinct commander has now passed off the case to the NYPD Hate Crime Task Force.
Should the one responsible be identified, University disciplinary proceedings will be conducted. In addition, he or she may face criminal charges should they be filed.
“This act is not just anti-Semitic and hateful, but a deadly slur to people of Jewish faith and descent, and a vile provocation to the entire Fordham family,” the email from the News and Media Relations Bureau said. “To say that this act is inconsistent with Fordham’s mission and the ethos of the academy is a vast understatement.”
This vandalism found at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus marks the fifth bias incident occurring at Fordham University this academic year.
The first bias incident occurred at the Rose Hill Campus on Sunday, Sept. 13, when a racial slur had been scratched into the door of an African-American student’s room.
The second incident occurred on Sunday, Sept. 20, when a backwards swastika was found scratched into a stairwell wall in the same residence hall.
The third incident occurred on Wednesday Nov. 11, when a swastika and white supremacist reference was found at Lincoln Center in a Lowenstein Hall bathroom.
The fourth bias incident occurred on Friday, Nov. 13, when loud, repeated racist language and chants from a party at an off campus residence were heard by two Fordham students.
The frequency of bias incidents here at Fordham is alarming to some students.
“I think that at this point, this incident could’ve potentially been a copycat act from the beginning of the year; someone may have seen that the perpetrators from some of the incidents last semester remained anonymous,” said Ashley Domagola, FCRH ‘16, Executive President of Fordham United Student Government. “Whether or not this is the case, It’s truly sickening to think that a fellow student operates with the mentality that they can anonymously and arbitrarily belittle a group of people.”
Despite this assumption, Carroll expressed some uncertainty surrounding the nature of this bias incident.
“I don’t know what to make of this thing,” Carroll said. “I wouldn’t classify this as a copycat incident just yet, it doesn’t feel that way to me. The only way we’ll know for sure is if we find the person who committed the act.”
In an attempt to combat these bias incidents, the university and other members of the community took action this past fall.
On Sept. 15, an open dialogue was hosted by ASILI: the Black Student Alliance.
On Sept. 19, a group of about 30 students rallied in protest at the Fordham Homecoming game.
On Sept. 22, students packed a lecture hall in Freeman for “Race and Privilege On Campus: A Dialogue,” sponsored by Women’s Empowerment, Progressive Students for Justice, ASILI and JSO.
On Sept. 29, a Vigil for Healing and Hope was hosted on Keating Steps by Jewish Student Organization, along with ASILI, Pride Alliance, Muslim Student Association, Office of Student Involvement, Campus Ministry and United Student Government.
On Nov. 13, an ad-hoc committee was announced by United Student Government at Lincoln Center (USGLC) created an following the discovery of the swastika and the white supremacy speech of the third bias incident. This committee was created to combat these issues and finding solutions to issues of this manner at Fordham.
On Nov. 13, students protested and discussed the difficulties of attending a predominantly white university in a “blackout.” This protest was organized by students Sinclair Spratley and Lexi McMenamin, both FCLC ’17 outside the Lowenstein Center where the hateful image and reference of the third bias incident was was found.
Fordham Students United formed as a result of the bias incidents as well. This student group works together with student leaders, activists, faculty and alumni to deal with community issues.
In addition, The Diversity Task Force was created by Rev. Joseph M. McShane S.J., president of the university, in order to study the climate of the university in response response to bias incidents.
Although these groups were created months ago, Domagala calls for students to revisit past discussions. “While a lot of the momentum from previous incidents had died down, now is a great opportunity to continue the conversation.” Domagola said, “This issue unfortunately won’t disappear overnight, but we shouldn’t adopt the mentality that this is the norm for our campus. Hatred should never be tolerated at Fordham.”